(Let me segue here to say that I use the New Living version of The One Year Chronological Bible for my morning devotions. I’ve had a great experience with it and highly recommend using it. It has been very helpful for keeping on track and it allows me to avoid the “What should I read next” problem that many people have.)
Anyway, in this passage, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that Daniel interprets. Basically, he tells the king that if he doesn’t repent, then Neb is going to go crazy for seven years until he acknowledges God’s sovereignty. Unfortunately, Neb doesn’t listen and the prophesy comes true.
What strikes me is Daniels appeal to the king to repent. Based on the prophecy, it seems like Neb is a bit haughty. It sounds like his pride has gotten the best of him and God wants to remind his who’s boss. But Daniel doesn’t refer to that, at least not directly. He warns the king and says, “…please listen to me. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past by being merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.”
According to Daniel, Neb’s wickedness has more to do with how he treats the poor than with thinking he’s better than God. Although maybe that’s the problem. Neb has completely missed the point. His position isn’t given to him to rule over his subjects mercilessly. His authority has been given to him so he can make a difference for those who can not help themselves. Instead of doing that, he has withheld justice and mercy to the poor.
What’s profound about this is how this relates to God. God is not like Neb. God IS merciful to the poor and to those who cannot help themselves (that would be us!). Instead of ruling over us like a tyrant. God welcomes us in and helps us out of our poverty and bankrupt souls. He invests in us and offers us a new life and a new position. That’s an amazing thing for a limitless being to do for a limited creation.
So what are we like? Do we seek out the poor around us? This doesn’t simply refer to people with limited finances, but to the people around us who are morally, emotionally, relationally and/or spiritually bankrupt. Do we reflect God’s mercy? Or are we too consumed with visions of our own greatness to notice?